Illini men's track takes small victories in Lexington

By Will Most

There was no true winner at the end of the Rod McCravy Memorial Invite this weekend, although some members of the Illinois men’s track and field team shone individually — the meet didn’t involve any team scores.

Illinois’ long distance unit, consisting mostly of the cross-country squad that took second in the Big Ten Championships, had a productive meet. Junior Dylan LaFond broke the school record in the 3,000 meters, clocking in a time just over eight minutes (8:00.48), and taking second in the race. Additionally, in the 5,000 meters, sophomore Alex Gold took first place and three other Illini placed in the top five.

“Alex had a really gutsy race and a commanding finish,” said head coach Mike Turk.

Aside from the successes of the long distance unit, there weren’t many dominating performances, but Illinois was in the mix in nearly every race. Cam Viney, an All-American last season, made his season debut, participating in various races with some decent results.

Jonathan Wells, who has been a critical part of the team’s success in the early season, competed in his first multi-event, a heptathlon. He took first in high jump and second in every other event with the exception of the 1,000 meters — he was last in that event. While Wells took second in the event as a whole, he is confident that he and his team can do more as the season progresses.

“This weekend has really shown us that we have more room for improvement,” Wells said. “There is a lot of room to grow and be the best we can be this year.”

Turk is confident in his team. With a week break coming up, the Illini should have ample time to rest, train and get healthy. With three straight weeks of meets and injuries weighing the Illini down, Turk believes there is more to this team than what the early part of the season has shown, and some of the toughest parts of its indoor track season are already behind Illinois.

“I know that this is a really good team,” Turk said. “We definitely got started off behind the eight ball, but we are making up ground quickly.”

[email protected]

@Will_Most